Creating really great panoramas requires a combination of solid field techniques and post-processing techniques. Here are five easy, but essential field tips to use when taking panoramas on your travels.
1. Level the tripod
Make sure that the tripod head mounting plate is perfectly level. Some people only level the camera when setting up for a panorama, but this is actually the wrong approach. If the base is not level and you rotate the camera from left to right, then the scene will actually be tilted and the panorama’s horizon will be off-kilter.
2. Rotate around lens
The best panoramas are made by rotating the camera around the lens’ mid-point. Technically, you should rotate around the no-parallax point for the best results.
Find the no-parallax point through trial and error by panning the camera from left to right and noticing if things like poles or bushes change in perspective with the background. If the pole does move left and right, try moving the camera backwards or forward a little bit.
Once the camera is positioned correctly, you won’t see any relative movement between foreground objects and background objects as you rotate. If you are hand-holding, position the camera above the front foot and rotate around your foot. This is much better than rotating around your waist since it is most likely to cause parallax errors.
3. Meter for the highlights and develop for the shadows
Since panorama captures a very wide area, you’ll need to be careful about how you meter for the scene so you don’t blow out the highlights. Today’s modern cameras have a wide dynamic range so you can pull out shadow detail in programs like Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC.
Find the brightest area such as the clouds, and then meter there so they don’t blow out. Then lock that meter value into the camera and proceed with shooting the panorama. Last is merge the panorama together and then pull out the shadow detail with the shadow slider or other tools.
4. Overlap Appropriately
In order to successfully merge all of your images together in a single panorama, you’ll need to provide the software with a little bit of overlap from image to image. With the really wide-angle lens like a 14mm or 16mm, you’ll need to overlap as much as 50% from photo to photo.
With longer lenses like 70 mm or 200 mm, you only need to overlap by 10% from photo to photo. Longer lenses have less distortion and therefore it is easier for the software to merge all of the images together.
5. Lock Camera Settings
In order for the panorama to merge properly in software, you have to make sure you lock all the appropriate camera settings while you are in the field. These include:
- Focus distance
- Shutter speed
- White balance
- Focal length (lens zoom)
(Source: creativelive blog)
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